Managing Cholesterol Levels With Dietary Changes

High cholesterol has become a major health problem in the United States in recent years, and high-cholesterol foods have gotten a bad reputation as a result. But contrary to popular belief, cholesterol in your diet isn’t the biggest contributor to high levels of bad cholesterol in your blood; instead, the culprit is saturated fat, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (2006).

The fact is, many different foods can affect your cholesterol levels. Understanding which foods can make bad cholesterol worse and which can help raise good cholesterol will help you formulate the best cholesterol diet plan.

Fats

Saturated fats—especially trans fats—are major contributors to high levels of bad cholesterol. Doctors recommend limiting your intake of saturated and trans fats. Foods high in these fats include:

  • Cheeses
  • Fatty meats
  • Ice cream
  • Some margarines
  • Some processed snack foods.

Instead, focus on consuming unsaturated fats, such as those in peanut, olive and canola oils, as well as the essential omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, such as salmon.

Dietary Cholesterol

Dietary cholesterol also contributes to the cholesterol level in your blood. High-cholesterol foods include:

  • Egg yolks
  • Organ meats, such as liver and kidney
  • Whole milk products.

You can replace these foods with egg substitutes, skim milk and lean meats. Aim to limit the cholesterol in your diet to 300 milligrams per day if you are healthy, and 200 milligrams per day if you have heart problems.

Other Considerations

Whole grains consumption can contribute to overall heart health; try to eat whole wheat instead of white flour breads. You can also increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables, since these are high in fiber, which fills you up and may make it easier to lose weight.

When formulating your cholesterol diet plan, don’t ignore the total number of calories you’re getting. Consuming too many calories will lead to weight gain and could result in higher cholesterol.

Pay Attention to Food Labels

How will you know which foods to eat and which to avoid? Look at their nutrition fact labels. Pay particular attention to the serving size, as well as total calories, cholesterol, saturated fat and fiber.

Ideally, you should aim to keep your daily consumption below 100 percent of the recommended daily values for fats, cholesterol and sodium, while consuming at least100 percent of the recommended daily values for protein, fiber, unsaturated fats and essential vitamins.

Resources

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). High cholesterol. Retrieved January 7, 2011, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-cholesterol/DS00178

University of Maryland Medical Center. (2006). High cholesterol guide. Retrieved January 7, 2011, from http://www.umm.edu/careguides/000242.htm